Whether we are cognisant of the fact or not, as humans we go through life building connections and relationships which fill different needs. A majority of these happen to be family ties and friendships with people we form bonds with, whilesome of these are just brought about by happenstance. Another sizable portion of these connections tend to be formed around networking; finding people with similar or common interests for the sake of expanding our knowledge base. The computer repair field brings about no lesser of a necessity to reach out and cull information from informal relationships we build over time.
Personal Learning Networks are more commonly (and formally) referred to in the realm of education. Teachers and instructors have been blogging for years about how to expand their own networking circles through these “ingenious” concoctions known as PLNs, but the concept as a whole is nothing that revolutionary.
A PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a collection of anything you want it to be, really. In the most formal sense, you structure a PLN to build ties with outlets or individuals that can provide information & insight for topics you want to learn more about. Computer repair technicians may go about this in one form or another, but likely have never thought of their outreach as being the framework for a PLN.
In my own adventure to become a better technician and ultimately to make my company FireLogic as great as it can be, I’ve been reaching out to various people and online venues to solidify myself in the computer repair field. Blogs, podcasts, websites, email listserves, social networking circles, newsletters, and much more. A PLN to me may be entirely different for what a PLN may mean to you. Whatever the case, take a moment to evaluate how and where you reach out for assistance. With a few pointers, you could cut your hunt for information down by half or more.
Here’s my best advice when it comes to building your own computer repair PLN:
- Bookmark trustworthy forums that have a strong community following.
It should go without further saying that one of the best communities to join and participate in is our very own Technibble forums. With over 61,000 members and 31,000 threads being talked about, it’s a melting pot of great information. Any good forum will not only allow you to post your own questions, but will also give you the chance to search through its vast archive of previously answered items.
The Technibble forums have a vast wealth of such information which is commonly re-answered by subsequent posts because people did not merely search for the content they were looking for. Other great forums for computer repair technicians are the Microsoft MSDN forums and the HardForum.
- Use Google Reader to subscribe to useful RSS feeds of sites you already follow.
If you haven’t become familiar with Google Reader, it’s probably a good idea to check it out. For the 90%+ of you that already have some form of a Google account, you can piggy back into this free service from Google that subscribes you to the RSS feeds that most professional websites today offer. The concept is simple: congregate all of the important websites you would otherwise check separately every day into one common interface.
This not only increases your ability to skim for daily information which pertains most to you, but it will also give you the chance to inspect a greater depth of information every day. Because so much time is wasted by trying to visit each site individually, you can instead use this precious time to pick through articles which interest you and can help you become a better technician. Technibble provides its own RSS feed, as well as a number of other sites pertaining to computer repair. My other personal favorites include PCMech, Neowin, Winbeta, and Ars Technica.
- Search out quality podcasts related to computer repair.
Podcasting isn’t some niche outcast hobby anymore. Plenty of quality, trusted broadcasters are providing insightful content for fellow technicians on a weekly basis. The greatest part is that you can choose to subscribe to these shows directly via iTunes or within Google Reader (which is what I do). This ensures that you will get the latest shows populated in your viewer of choice with ease. The variety of podcasts available cover every kind of topic which technicians may be interested in. I personally recommend the Podnutz series of shows which come out on a near weekly basis.
The most interesting show they offer is called Podnutz Daily which brings on a different guest (read: computer tech or business owner) every show to discuss recent repair jobs and provide insight on work they are doing. Mike Tech Show is another computer repair podcast which is very informative but geared towards a crowd that is merely interested in the point-A-to-point-B of computer repair. Spot on accurate but a bit dry at times. The list goes on, but you get my point. Radio shows don’t have to be boring anymore.
- Build direct relationships with fellow industry professionals over social networks.
Google+ and Facebook have more worth than just acting as an outlet to view your friends’ recent favorite meals. They can be extremely powerful means for connecting to fellow technicians. There is no single, concise list of technicians to connect with which makes this part of your PLN likely the most time intensive of them all. But the flipside is just that: the time you spend building out a quality PLN will lead to a direct, positive outlet for which to ask questions and find out solid information on the things you are interested in.
This may not ring true for everyone, but I am finding Google+ to be a much better venue for PLN building. Perhaps the kind of people I am running into, and the items they are posting, are more conducive towards professional growth. Take your own try at reaching out to fellow techs on each service and see what works for you. Google+ is nice because you can even create a circle for the “technicians” you communicate with, and both view their streams when necessary or post questions to them as a whole when needed. The choices are endless!
While the above avenues are my favorite aspects of a strong PLN, your personal choices don’t have to stop there. Perhaps YouTube channels provide you with quality content. Or the Tumblr pages of some trusted computer techs. Maybe even a few listserves which you dug up on Google. Make use of the best, and get rid of the rest. Use the above simple guidelines for building out your PLN and see what difference it can make in your own experiences in becoming a better computer repair technician and/or business owner.